Around the town.
In the morning at 7:30 is a good time for a walk if I want to see the town going to work. In the blocks where there is no sidewalk, I leave the street to allow for oncoming trucks and cars. Later in the day I don’t have to do that. Drivers aren’t less observant. They still wave. Drivers are everywhere, though they mostly move to the two highways going through town. There is a line at the pick-up window at the local cleaners. The street in front of the elementary school is lined with cars to leave children. School buses, large noisy conveyances, are in operation.
Those not working have the leisure to walk or observe from porches. A man who has a large garden plot, now lying fallow, sits on the porch and gives me a wave and smile. I encounter another walker holding a huge branch in his right hand. Does it keep him propelled? Two children scamper to the front door of the building from a man who has walked him to school. Holding a water bottle, he begins a painful jog. His face is contorted; he’s not having fun. He’s not doing penance because penance should be done in good spirit. There are two women out with dogs. The dogs acknowledge me, and the women say, “Good morning.”
In the midst of this business, I am able to focus on changes fall has made. The crepe myrtle trees are no longer in blossom. Hydrangeas are no longer blooming; small blooms that are left fade fast. There are a few roses, made more beautiful from the lack of blooming things with which to compare them. A squirrel carrying an acorn crosses the street in front of me. He twitches his fail, and I think that is a sign that he is going to bole somewhere, but it’s perhaps a greeting, for he continues to ross leisurely in front of me.
On a late afternoon walk this week, I encountered on the sidewalk a tall man approaching me. In his left hand, he held a leash on which a happy dog seemed to greet me. In his right hand he was pulling a baby carriage carrying a smiling child, sitting up. He smiled as I left the sidewalk to let his equipage pass. I said, “You are with friends!” And he laughed and said, “Yes.”
Saturday, Sandwich Ministry at the Methodist Church. I help fill bags with lunches for the local needy. I enjoy chatting with friends and bantering with their sons. When we finish, Ben asks me to go with him on delivery with his truck. It is late morning, a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70’s. We go to a large apartment complex, where I take the sacks of sandwiches and attach them to doorknobs. We are not to ring doorbells, or talk with the neighbors. There is no note or pamphlet from the church. At a couple of apartments there is a strong smell of cigarette smoke. Most are quiet. At one, the door opens just a bit, and a small boy smiles and says, “Thank you.” I reply quietly, “You’re welcome.”
It has been a good week for reading:
Fiction. Paul Harding, Enon. (2013) The narrator of this novel is a father in grief for his daughter, tragically killed on her bicycle, run over by a car. The next week his wife leaves him. Before she leaves, he punches a wall in his house and breaks his hand. Alone, and dealing with both physical and emotional pain, he becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol. He ruins his life. He has an epiphany, hits bottom. He recovers and lives simply, still in grief for his daughter. Such a summary hardly captures the artistry and complexity of the book. The title is the name of a New England town, and we meet contemporary New England characters, many reflecting former Puritan attitudes and expectations. One woman, having “the majesty of plain speech,” lectures him about his grief and this admonition begins his recovery. The most interesting aspect of the book is the use of first-person narrative. We see the protagonist’s physical and emotional changes firsthand, and the changes from normal to hallucinatory to healed are made startlingly effective.
Drama. William Shakespeare, Richard II. (c. 1595). This is history as I like it. Instead of summation of facts, however eloquent, we live with the characters in their frustrations, mistakes, intrigues, triumphs or downfalls. Shakespeare shows us complexities of the characters. The language soars. In the fourth act, the speech of the Bishop of Carlisle, which projects ramifications of the deposition of Richard, is eloquent in thought and statement. It moves Bolingbroke so that when he becomes king, he pardons Carlisle. Anglophiles rejoice in the famous and often quoted speech describing England: “This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, / This earth of majesty . . . / This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England . . . This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land / Dear for her reputation through this world.” And I love Mowbray’s speech as he learns of his banishment: “The language I have learnt these forty years, / My native English, now I must forgo; / And now my tongue’s use is to me no more. / What is thy sentence then but speechless death, / Which robs my tongue from breathing native breath?”
Nonfiction. Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. (2013) Rohr’s ideas are to be considered again and again. This book give numerous ideas about living prayerfully, ideas that the reader will consider and perhaps practice day by day. Here are seven: (1) “As long as we are comparing and differentiating from the other, we can’t love the other. We judge it. As soon as we are in a judging mode. . . we can’t love.” (2) “Healthy religion is an enthusiasm about what is, not an ager about what isn’t.” (3) “All I can give back to God is what God has given to me–nothing more and no less!” (4) “We have switched from a language of responsibility to a language or rights, which only aggrandizes the private self.” (5) “The fact that God has given us so many different faces and temperaments and emotions and histories shows us how God honors each unique journey and culture. God is not threatened by differences. It’s we who are.” (6) “All religion is metaphor and symbol. . . . there is no other way we can know the mystery. . . the only way we can see the spiritual and transcendent.” (7) “We cannot attain the presence of God, because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.”
Thank you for reading. I hope your upcoming week will be good.